Overcome By Circumstance or God?
Today, we enter again into the Gospel of Mark. We'll look at the last section of chapter four, at a very real and intense drama. And again, this is often the case as we go through the book of Mark, as he presents the gospel of Jesus Christ to us the life and the ministry of Jesus Christ, His words, his preaching his ministry. It's very dramatic. But today, we're right there with the heart-beating, tear-bringing kind of passage that just leaves us in awe. We're going to look at that and we're going to see some valuable lessons that we can take from this passage; for those of us following Jesus Christ, in this world, full of circumstances, full of trials, full of uncertainties, valuable lessons for us to take hold of.
It came to mind during worship this morning, a film called Black Hawk Down. Are you guys familiar with that film? It's been years now since it's passed, but I remember seeing it and I was very much touched. It actually brought me to tears. It was in my early days, as a missionary, there's this one scene where one of the you guys was there on the field, serving. He's been in this hostile context for so long, that literally he walks out in the middle of the street, and bullets are just flying by him. He's talking and giving orders to his guys who are trembling and shaking because it's all new to them. He's been doing this a long time, and it doesn't faze him. He's been in the battle for a while. When I first saw that, it literally brought me to tears because I was fighting the good fight and spending myself for Jesus Christ, doing things that before to me were absolutely impossible. It choked me up just watching that scene. Lately, I've been mindful of something that happens on the other end. It's good for us to not be fearful in this life, to be fully convinced we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ. We are his property. What can man do to us? We belong to Him. He will carry us till the end. No worries, go strong, go hard, fulfill your call. Yet something that can happen if you're in battle long enough, if you're fighting the good fight, is you can be used to it, but at the same time, at the other end of the spectrum, any little thing can then push you over the edge. You can be doing it so long, yet all of a sudden, one small little thing happens that could have been insignificant before, but it's enough to knock the domino over to take you out.
When I think of missions, and I think of missions in Italy as well, it's true, sadly and crazily, that 90% of the long-term missionaries that come into this land here, this one called Italy, within just four years, they find themselves out of here. And those who stick around longer often can experience that being "pushed over the edge". One small thing to the average person, all of a sudden is enough to derail you and to push you off the track. People go crazy. People do all kinds of crazy stuff, even missionaries that are solid men of God. It can happen. Little things can show up all of a sudden, and push us over the edge. I say this because as we look at our passage today, this experience on the boat, we'll see something here is also very dramatic and one of those kind of moments that can push us over the edge. Let's pray and then we'll read our text.
Father God, we thank you for this moment as we come together, corporately together to hear your word. We thank you that your word is alive, Your word is active, powerful penetrating, to reach our soul to transform us from within. I don't think we need to say it Lord, all of us this morning, this week, these days, it seems, have experienced different levels of drama in our life. Sensations of being overwhelmed. Sensations, perhaps even of despair. I myself, found myself in the hospital Lord, as you know, heart beating a speradically from many different things happening. Our supporter in the ministry is taking his last breaths in this moment. All kinds of things are happening all around us. We are still in a context and it's a fallen world. Yet we're living for you, Jesus amidst there circumstances. So renew our hearts this morning, I pray. Help us to be still. Help us to be calm. As I speak, Lord, surely many words will be spoken, but my prayer is that your Spirit would speak to every heart in this room, at least one word. And one word from you, Lord, is enough to transform our lives forever. Help me to communicate according to your will Lord, clearly and effectively. Help each of us to have a heart sensitive to the voice of God this morning, in Jesus name. Amen.
Chapter Four, Gospel of Mark, chapter 4:35-41
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, let us go across to the other side. And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. In other boats were with him. And a great wind storm arose. And the waves were breaking into the boats, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, Jesus, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, teacher, do you not care that we are perishing? And he woke, and he rebuked the wind, and said to the sea peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said to them, Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith? And they were filled with great fear, great fear, and said to one another, who then is this, that even the wind in the sea obey Him.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
We're going to walk through the text a little bit, grab hold of the context, some of the other things going on in this scene. And then we're going to arrive to those six lessons for us to follow Jesus Christ; six lessons to be a faithful disciple in this world full of circumstances, trials, and difficulties.
In verse 35, we read, "On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side"."
Again, Mark is revealing to us the ministry of Jesus Christ, the greatest missionary to set foot on this planet, Jesus Christ Himself. From heaven, He came down to earth. Just looking at Earth full of sinful people like you and like me, was challenging for Him, but He entered in. Joe reminded us this morning of God's great mercy. He came in, he entered his creation; here in our midst, living in our place, fulfilling the law of God, and fulfilling His ministry. He's busy. He finished a long day of teaching. Finished a long day of doing miraculous things. And he says "Let us go across to the other side". I want us to remember this morning, an important lesson right away. Jesus, He has the agenda. Jesus has the plan. He's not at the whim of all the people. He's not persuaded by people what he needs to do and what he doesn't need to do. On more than one occasion, the people said, "Jesus, stick around. We have this in this for you to do". What was his reply? I came to preach the word. Other people need to hear. I have sheep that need to be saved. I can't stick around. I have to go on to other towns as well. Remember that when you consider your life, as you live for your Lord as you live for your Savior, as you for your Redeemer, he has the plan. It's good. It's right. We need to plan. We need to have vision for our life, God-given vision, why you're still here, what your purpose is, what role you play in the Lord's church. And you need to be active in pursuing that, spending yourself for the Lord, making plans, godly plans. But we always need to be submissive to the will of God knowing he has the perfect plan, the ultimate plan. And the great thing here as well, is he's he's not making this plan up as he goes. Jesus, our Lord, our God is not learning anything new, ever. He's all knowing, all powerful, everywhere present, omniscient, not learning anything new. He has one plan. And he's unfolding it every single day. And the challenges and the difficulties and the struggles You and I are facing today, also play a purpose, a valuable purpose in his plan. Let's remember that today. It's not in vain. If you're a Christian, you're difficulty, your struggle is serving a purpose. It really is. You need it, what you're going through, right now. It's making you stronger. "Let us go across to the other side." He has the plan. They're moving forward.
In verse 36, we read, "Leaving the crowd". There is a time in life, you need to leave people behind. There's a time in life when you need to send people away. We see that in chapter six of Mark, he sends the people away. He's got a plan. They leave the crowd in this case. And they took it they took him with them. The disciples took Jesus with him with them in the boat. And it's interesting to consider they're taking him with with them. But we all know it's the opposite way, actually. God is in control. He's bringing us with him. He's the master, we're the disciples. We're following after. We are in the School of Christ, if we've come to Him as Lord and Savior. We're following. He's before you, he is with you, and he's unfolding all things. You're in his boat. In any case here, they took Him in the boat just as he was. In other words, they didn't make any further preparations. They didn't gather stuff together. We're done. Let's get in the boat. We're moving forward.
In verse 37, we read, "A great windstorm arose".
A great, mega, windstorm arose. The waves were breaking into the boat. Here's the real drama, the intense drama. That feeling of helplessness, that feeling of despair, when your heart is pounding, when the tears are coming out, when you don't know what to do, when you're wet. In this case, when there's loud noise from the wind. This is the drama that they're facing now, a great windstorm arose. It wouldn't be uncommon in this particular context, in this sea, in this landscape, for wind storms, to all of a sudden arise. It's not uncommon, but it is more uncommon that at nighttime this would happen. Typically, it was calm at night in this particular sea, and that's the reason why many fishermen would go out in the night in the calm to do their fishing. In any case, whether God caused this storm to happen for this very specific purpose, whether it just happened... We do know, in any case, God decrees all that comes to pass. Yet a storm, a very real storm here did arise. Very real terror, anxiety, fear for life is upon the disciples in this moment. We'll consider that in more detail when we come to our lessons in just a moment. The boat was already filling; water in the boat. Once the water is there, what else can you do? You can drill a hole in the boat to get the water out, but then one more water would come in... They're in a desperate situation. Ironically here we see Jesus was in the in the stern, asleep on the cushion. Mark here helps us to remember the true humanity of Jesus Christ. Truly man and truly God at the same time. He was very much human, fully human, truly human. Exhausted, a storm arises and he's still sleeping. He's knocked out in the boat that's rocking in the raging storm. He's sleeping.
They did something good in the second part of this verse. They "woke him and they said to him". In your storms, in our storms, it's always good. Let it be the first thing you do - come to your Master, who's Lord of the storms and is Lord over all. As we see in this passage, He's Lord even over nature. He has authority over it all because He is God, Jesus is God. "They woke him, and they said to him". It's very good. What's not good is what they say to Him. Potentially here we see a borderline accusation towards the Lord of Glory. "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" "Don't you care? What's wrong with you? Don't you see what I'm going through? Don't you see what's happening? Where are you? What are you doing? I thought you were good."
The irony here is that He's more aware than they are of what's going on. He's more aware of the true problem each of them has. That is, that they were born with a sinful nature, and they'll stand before a holy and righteous God, a holy and righteous judge. They stand condemned. The wrath of God the Father, a true storm is upon them. He knows what's going on, and He knows what He's doing. He cares so much. He entered into this context, He entered into His creation, to redeem those who are perishing in their sins. That's the irony.
"Don't you see what we're going through? Don't you see that we're going to perish?"
And Jesus says in effect, "I think I see it, yeah. You're perishing from a lot more than you can understand, but one day you will understand how sin has ruined you, how sin will bring you to destruction, and eternal torment. But I came to save you from that."
The first things we have of Jesus in his preaching ministry was, "Repent and believe, and if you don't, you too, will perish."
In Romans 8:31-34. I just want to remind us that these verses here from the Lord. We read in Romans 8:31, "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all. How will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies who is to condemn Christ Jesus is the one who died more than that, who was raised, who was at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, or nakedness, or danger or sword? Verse 37 - No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
The Lord is interceding for his elect. Still today, this is happening. He's interceding for us now in our difficulties, in our storms, and our challenges. He's interceding for us. "Do you not care that we are perishing?" He cares, and he lives forever to intercede for you and for me. In Philippians, four, six to seven we read, it's a sin to be anxious, do not be anxious, but cast your cares upon him. It's good, and it's right for us to come in our overwhelming experiences in this life, to come quickly to Jesus. Let your prayers be made known to him. He cares more than you can comprehend and imagine. He really, really does. We understand his love towards us very little, and we need to understand it more.
In verse 39, we read, "And he awoke and he rebuked the wind".
He didn't rebuke them. He's merciful. He's kind. He didn't rebuke them for this potential false accusation. "Don't you care?" "I care way more than you understand." Rather than rebuke them, in His mercy and His grace, He rebuked the sea, He rebuked the storm. He acts decisively. Here he says to the sea, "peace, be still". A word from the Lord, a word from this Jesus, a word from the Lord and the world we know was created. With the word He spoke and it came into being. He speaks to His creation, and it does whatever He says. The wind and sea do not have ears to hear, but they obeyed. They heard, because they are subject to their Creator. "Peace Be still", the wind ceased and there was a great calm. He's truly God in our midst. No one can calm a storm. No one can control nature, but God alone. This is our Lord. This is Jesus Christ. No mere man. No simple carpenter. God with us, Emmanuel. He calms our storm.
He said to them in verse 40, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith? Perhaps this is the word that many of us should just hang on to today. Fear and faith have a connection. Often, when we're overwhelmed, often when we're fearful, it's evidence of a weak faith, of a withering faith. When one is high, the other is typically low. When you are fearless, typically you have great faith. Faith comes and goes, in the sense, if you're not nourishing yourself in the Word of God, if you're not putting yourself in the means of grace that God has given us, if you're not in the word, if you're not among the people of God, if you're not in prayer, your faith will grow weak. You may have the shield of faith, and you may be holding it correctly, but if your faith is not strong, that shield is useless. It's down. It's not protecting you from the assaults that come towards you in this life. Remember to stay nourished, to stay in the word, abide in the word, abide with the Lord, be among his people. Let your faith grow strong. "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?"
Verse 41, reveals a lot to us as well. "They were filled with great fear."
Now you and I are looking at this passage today, the first thing that might come to mind is how quick and who would be the first perhaps to pull out the smartphone and snap a photo of what just happened or to do a quick vlog of sorts or something like this. "You'll never believe what just happened. I was on a boat. This guy here he spoke in the storm calmed. Good night! Can you believe it? I gotta go change my trousers now because I think I wet myself. I'll catch you in the next episode." That's what would happen today. And maybe among them we might even think perhaps a high five, perhaps a cheer, perhaps a "Good night, did you see what happened? That was astonishing." But the truth is, we don't get any of that. That's not what happened. They were filled not with fear, but with great fear now. Yaweh is in our midst. "God is in my boat. I'm a sinful man. Good night, He's here!" Trembling. Before they wet their trousers. Now they perhaps soiled their trousers, if you know what I mean. Total fear. People in the presence of God die and they die quickly. Even the apostle John in his old age when he's getting visions from the Lord for the book of Revelation that we have written for us today, he sees Jesus in glory. What does he do? Is he happy? Is he excited? No. He falls to the ground like a dead man. Fear. Our God is holy, holy, holy. There's nobody like him. We all fall short here. We all have this man-sized image of God. We have a very limited comprehension of how vast, how astonishing, how powerful and mighty God is. Thick dark clouds surround Him and flames of fire. He speaks the word, the world's form. It's astonishing to us. How great and mighty Our God is. We don't understand it well enough. John saw the Lord Jesus in glory and he fell to the ground, terrified, dead. And the Lord said in his mercy, "Stand up. It's okay. I have things to tell you. You have a purpose to fulfill." And my kingdom is expansive. There's many, many more years of gospel proclamation to go on. And this kingdom will continue to grow and is better and greater than you could possibly imagine. Great fear came upon them. No celebration, they're terrorized rightly. They understood something this night. In this episode, they understood God a little better. This is no ordinary man, this is God. It is astonishing these words that we have recorded from Mark, "Who then is this?" Let that sink in your heart today as well. Be asking yourself this week, as you go through the week, "who is my Lord? Who is my master? Who is my God." You will never exhaust knowing God, not this side of eternity and not for eternity. We will continually be amazed and astonished at the greatness of our Lord and our God. He's inexhaustible. "Who then is this?" Be captivated by him more than you're captivated by any other passion you have in this life. Be captivated by him. My exhortation for us today. "Who then is this that even the wind in the sea obey Him?"
For those of us who want to follow Jesus faithfully, all the days that remain for us, faithfully through the storms and challenges of life.
Lesson 1 - Storms Reveal Our Impotence.
Storms reveal our impotence or inabilities or limitedness. And the sooner we learn that, the better we are. I reckon many of you guys struggle with this as soldiers, because you're authoritative, get-it-done kind of folks. Those of us like that we struggle, because we have control, we need control, we get stuff done. And we set the agenda, we call the shots, because if we don't who will, right? Somebody has to do this stuff, or we all just wander and do nothing. But the truth is, though we can make good plans, and we should make good plans, though we should be determined, though we should be motivated, though we should be energized to do things and do things for the Lord. The results are actually out of our hands, you can do all the right things. And have a heart problem and fall down the next day. It happens. Sometimes the healthiest people around us, those who are very mindful of their their body and what they eat and this and that, often are the ones who get sick the most, or get some rare, crazy disease and die young.
We should do our best. Do it all under the Lord. But we have to know we're impotent, really. Results are totally out of your hands in my hands. Results comes from the Lord according to His will, according to His plan. You can be a total bum, and have people talking about you centuries after you're dead because of one thing you did right in your life. That's the world we live in. God is in control of the results. But he's in full control. And he decrees all that comes to pass. So next storm that comes, your next storm, or even the one you're embracing now, lesson one, remember, it's there also to reveal your impotence and your need to be united to the Master, to the Lord of all things who has the plan.
Lesson 2 - Keep Right Expectations.
Keep right expectations. We all know the stories of those who get married young and they're excited and have expectations of what marriage is and this and that, and they're excited. In love at first sight and they get married 10 days after they meet and all this excitement. And then the reality sets in because unfortunately, they've had wrong expectations about what life is and even what marriages. Marriage is a beautiful thing. It's a gift from God. It's a wonderful thing. But it's also a primary sanctification device of our Lord and our master, to shape us, to mold us more into the image of Jesus Christ, to transform us. And so we get along so well, husbands and wives at the same time, sometimes we rub each other the wrong way constantly because we're totally different because it's God's design so he can make us better and better and more like Christ; to shape us to mold us. But right expectations are important. And here it's possible. These disciples, they have an understanding, this is the Messiah. We've seen him do some stuff. He does miracles. He's with us. Perhaps they had expectations, smooth sailing, so to speak. What could go wrong? The Lord is with us. The Messiah is with us. The wind is behind us pushing us forward. Right? We can think that when we come into the school of Christ when we begin falling after our Lord, we've been against them all our life. Now we're united to him. Surely now things will be better. Surely now things will go smooth.
Careful of the expectations! There's no smooth sailing for Christians now. Not yet. There will be one day we look forward to that. We walk by faith now, knowing smooth sailing is coming. Our greatest need has been met, our sins have been paid for, we've been redeemed, we've been purchased. We belong to the Lord now. But trials and difficulties the Lord assured us, He promised us, we will still have now. "In the world", Jesus said, "You will have tribulation but take heart, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33). Be mindful of your expectations. With Jesus we have salvation, we have forgiveness, we have joy, real joy, unending joy, rest we have. Peace we have. Love we have. True life, new life, eternal and abundant life, but it's not only over yet, the smooth sailing, not yet. We'll have days where the wind is behind us, absolutely. Maybe weeks, maybe years. But difficulties, challenges, trials, and even persecutions will never escape us. Let's have right expectations. Lesson number two, perhaps part of the terror was because they had a little bit distorted expectations. They didn't quite have the big picture of what God was doing.
Lesson 3 - We Matter to Jesus Christ
You, if you're in Christ, if you're united to Him, you've repented of your sin, you've trusted in Him as Lord and Him alone, God has made you knew, you're born again, you have eternal life, you matter to Jesus Christ more than you can comprehend. You're important. None of us are more or less important than the other. We all play a unique role in His Kingdom. You have a unique purpose. Attention! Never accused God. In your difficulty, in your trial, in your challenge today, be mindful of the temptation to accuse God. "Don't you care that we're perishing? Don't you see what's happened to me, Lord?" Don't accuse him in your difficulty.
In First Peter 2:23, we read Peter telling us of the Lord Jesus Christ. "When he was reviled, he did not revile in return. When he suffered, he did not threaten. But he continued doing what, in trusting himself, to him who judges justly, and trusting himself to God the Father." In your challenge today, in your difficulty, or the one to come next week, remember, you need to entrust yourself to your Maker. You matter to Him. He has a plan. He's in this. Romans 5:6-8 we learn how we mattered to Jesus Christ. "That while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. He demonstrates His own love toward us that while we
were still sinners, Christ died for us." For you.
The Gospel itself shows us the love of God for us. Many today say, "If God is so good, why doesn't He do something in this world? I mean, look at what's going on." Look what's going on. All these terrible things, these wars, these people suffering and dying, and people don't have paychecks and all the rest. Why doesn't He do something? What was this guy missing? God did do something. He stepped into his creation. He went to the cross. And that speaks volumes. That's everything. We mattered to Jesus Christ, and He acted for us. We read already, He intercedes for you and for me, if we are in Christ. He's living to intercede for us.
Lesson 4 - Fear and Anxiety Are Real
But maybe if your fear and anxiety is overwhelming today, maybe it has to do with a lack of faith or misplaced affections. Fear and faith they go hand in hand. You could be overwhelmed, because you're doing things perhaps the Lord never called you to do, or because your affections are in the wrong place. Rather than be satisfied in Christ and Him alone (He's everything to you and is your treasure), rather than that, other things have taken His place, and they bring you meaning and purpose. They call this idolatry. But this is a common problem.
Misplaced affections could be the result of your fear and anxiety, but a great solution in a
ny case, when fear and anxiety come, when you're overwhelmed, is to remember that your help and comfort is knowing your Maker better. Knowing God. Studying the attributes of God. Give time to it. All these beautiful attributes of our great God and Savior and Lord, how they all work together perfectly. It's astonishing. You have fear and anxiety, look away from your circumstances, look to God and begin studying him more and you'll find great peace great comfort coming to you quickly.
Lesson 5 - Apply Yourself to Know Him More
This goes hand in hand, and I probably just didn't even need this one, but don't tire of pursuing God. Don't think that it's something you already did. "Yeah, I already studied and already looked at it read the Bible once." Okay. It's alive the Bible and it's food for your soul. Read it daily. Read it all the time. Study and abide in Him. Study Him.
Fear God more than all else. Fear him more than your circumstance. Fear Him, above all things, and live amazed as you apply yourself to know Him more. Live in constant astonishment, that your God, He knows you and He loves you. He calls you by name. He invites you. He cares for you. He sustains you. He keeps you. He fills you. This great God dwells in you. He gives you His Spirit. He empowers you to do what you could not do on your own. He really does. You have a new power within you. You look the same, you smell the same, and as I often say, if a cannibal would bite you, you would taste the same to him. But you are not the same as you were before. You are a new creature in Christ. You have new abilities within you. You can do things you couldn't do before. You can forgive. You can move on. You can press on. You can trust. You can believe. You can walk by faith. You can proclaim the Word. You can be a witness and all these things.
Lesson 6 - If You Love Him, Obey Him
If you love Him, obey Him. We see this in verse 41. The wind in the sea obeyed Him, and they don't even have ears to hear. They obeyed Him. Sadly, though, we are all very slow to obey. At least I am, maybe some are better than others, but typically with this flesh that we still carry, this unredeemed flash, we're often slow to obey. We know what's right, we know we ought to do, we know what we ought not to do, but we start to justify and consider. "Well, maybe, maybe he meant that, you know. Maybe nobody's watching... Maybe..." We're slow to obey. It ought not be that way. To love Jesus, though is to obey Him. They go hand in hand. You can't say you love Him and not obey Him. You can't obey Him without loving him. They go hand in hand.
How is your obedience today? How is it?
How is your obedience?
Are you slow to obey or to love Jesus today? Or are you quick?
The Lord wants you to be quick to obey. He wants you to be quick to love Him. John 14:15 - "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." John 15:21 - "You are my friends if you do what I command you." My friends do what I say Jesus says. How is your obedience today? Consider today what is overwhelming you. What is overwhelming you more today?
A Final Thought
Are life's circumstances overwhelming you today? Or are you more overwhelmed by God Himself and His love and kindness towards you today?
If you're like me, the circumstances overwhelm you far more than God Himself, and that's a terrible thing.
Let us all repent and turn from that idea.
Let us today find new motivation to be overwhelmed by our great God and Savior.
Lord, we thank you now as we pray, as we close, that your word is alive. We caught a greater vision of you somehow today. You came into your creation. You walked among us, and you lived among us. We're so far from what we ought to be Lord, but we've received great grace and mercy. Thank you for speaking to our hearts, Lord. Thank you for your living Word coming to us afresh again today. Seal these truths into our heart. Help us to apply these lessons we learned in this episode, in this moment in history. Help us to look at our trials and circumstances and anxieties differently today. And help us to look at You with greater awe, astonishment, and amazement today. Continue the work you began in us to the glory of Your name. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
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